Thursday, November 22, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #52



Ever been at a show and you notice that someone is wearing a t-shirt of the band he (or she, since it’s not just guys who go to shows, of course) is going to see? I guess that’s seen as a breach of show-going etiquette. In fact, I’ve heard that from different quarters, over the years, so it’s nothing new I’m reporting on here. It’s just something bubbling in a corner of my brain, one of those little nuggets to be brought out for a blog or column and here it is now.

But, yeah, wearing a shirt of the band you’re seeing is considered quite uncool. I don’t even know where it started but I tend to follow the same rule. This seems to be particularly true for larger concerts. When I went to see the Dio lineup of Black Sabbath this past summer, there were plenty of vintage Sabbath shirts broken out for the occasion. Some of them rather ill-fitting, in fact. Some of the “those guys” who wore, say, an original “Heaven and Hell” Sab shirt have sometimes, let’s say, put on a couple of pounds and those shirts are a tad ill-fitting. It’s like a security blanket, I suppose, and it makes me wish I had some of my old shirts from when I was younger.

Sometimes, it’s the bands themselves that are “that guy” or “guys.” I don’t recall too many, if any, “that girl” or “girls” doing the same thing. The only “that girl” that needs to be remembered is the one played by Marlo Thomas in the 60s and 70s. Marlo just turned 70, by the way. I don’t believe that. Getting back to “those guys” in bands, you’ll sometimes see a member wearing their own t-shirt. Maybe all their other shirts are dirty or they ran out and they grabbed one from the merch table so they don’t have to bare their torsos but it’s interesting, nonetheless. This often happens with older bands. An example is pictured above--Bones, from Discharge. I’m willing to cut the guy a lot of slack because he plays guitar in fucking DISCHARGE. That trumps everything. Sorry about the quality of the photo. And I also apologize for the quality of the Hirax photo right below here—their guitarist sported the merch at a show I saw a few years ago. I’ve got to give them props for having the brazenness to run their fog machine even in the confines of a 100 capacity club.

I'm sure, in my younger days, I was "that guy" from time to time. I do remember I prevented it once, when a friend and I went to see Kiss at the Worcester Centrum (it has a corporate name now). While we were driving, he said he had a surprise, produced a bag and removed two Kiss shirts, one for me and one for him. I refused to put it on, since even then (this was sometime in the 80s), I knew it wasn't what was done. I was probably wearing some punk rock or hardcore t-shirt. Maybe it was a being contrarian. I was stoked on seeing Kiss--probably not as much as my friend, but still looking forward to it--but I wasn't willing to go that far. Now that I think about it, maybe it was Ozzy we were going to see. Or Priest. No matter who it was, I refused to be "that guy."

Sal from Electric Frankenstein basically made an argument for being “that guy” in one his Loud Fast Rules columns (issue #4), as part of his continuing “So You Want To Be In A Rock &Roll Band” series, basically about having a “career” in the music biz. He writes, “make sure at least one of you are wearing YOUR band’s t-shirt while on stage and that NO ONE is wearing another band's shirt while on stage. Forget all the pussy hippies or “punks” (same thing, isn’t it?) that cry about how conceited it is to wear your own band’s shirts on stage. Fuck them! You just put on an amazing show that made everyone rush to your table to get shirts and CDs and when they go home their great memory of you on stage is the OTHER BAND’s name on the shirts that you were wearing! THINK! That’s dumb! Dumb! DUMB! It is well proven in marketing that people need to see the name 7 times in 9 occasions to strongly remember that name!”

Sal goes on to write that you’re giving away your work to another band by wearing one of their shirts. It’s obvious he’s using a marketing argument. Brand recognition. I was actually a marketing major in college and, from that perspective, he’s correct. But, when applying it to the musical realm in which I’m involved, I’m not so interested in marketing. I’m interested in the music, I’m interested in some sort of community. Sure, it's often a shallow commonality, based on what kind of music we're into. But what do I know? I’m just a pussy DIY “punk.” On a different matter, you might want to offer to buy Sal a drink after he tells you about his miserable experiences with Victory Records. He deserves that drink. Actually, I really do empathize with him after all the horror stories I’ve heard about that label.

Anyway, I strongly disagree with Sal about never wearing another band’s shirt. Why does everything have to be competition? A cool thing is when bands are touring together and they’ll wear each other’s shirts. I don’t think that falls into “that guy” territory but, rather, it’s a way of showing support, kinship. And, considering the stories I’ve heard about bands being at each other’s throats (both internally and externally) during tours, it makes it all the more impressive. But, to repeat, what do I know? I’m also one of those “pussy punks” who isn’t interested in a career in the so-called music biz, although the machinations of such create an endless amount of amusement and gratefulness that I never seriously pursued any of it, beyond music retail.

Links to blogs on the topic, way wittier than mine: and



Before getting to the music review section, here are a couple of photos from recent shows. I posted a picture of 86 Mentality in an earlier blog so here's a new one. Both of them, at the Ratscellar warehouse/basement space, were pretty fucking off the hook. People went nuts for both bands but there was a much more dangerous, in-your-face vibe for 86 Mentality. Let’s put it this way—I didn’t go NEAR the pit during their set, whereas it was fine for Government Warning. Hell, at 86M, the pit found ME a few times. To see more pictures from these hardcore extravaganzas (and a lot more), go to



ALLEGIANCE-Desperation (Rivalry, CD)
Another band doing the heavy, modern hardcore sound. Allegiance have the big riff mosh-a-rola down to a tee and John Stark barks the vocals with purposefulness—the slight distortion on his voice is kind of cool and the production is definitely on the rougher side, which is also a plus. Still, this is textbook windmill/floorpunching/point those fingers in the air hardcore and really doesn’t otherwise distinguish itself. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,

BARBIE AND THE HOOKERS/RF7-Split (Conformist, 7” EP)
Punk rock from the west coast and Xavier, the gentleman who sent this record, plays bass in both. BATH’s sound has a slightly garagey flavor merged with three chord snottiness and the lower-fi production works to its benefit. I’d imagine a fair number of you are familiar with RF7 but, if not, they’ve been around since the 80s and their vocalist, Felix, still has the vocal roughness. Nothing to make you forget “Submit To Them Freely” or “Kiss Ass,” but forging ahead with decent mid-to-fast punk. (10800 Laurel Ave., #L48, Whittier, CA 90605,

BITTER END-Climate Of Fear (Malfunction, CD)
A side note first—the label name Malfunction immediately gets me to start yelling “IT’S A MALLLLLLFUNCTION!” as in the Cro-Mags’ “Malfunction.” And Bitter End have that heavy sort of sound. Metallic hardcore at a mainly slow pace although they break out the thrash from time to time. And that’s when it makes my ears pick up. More songs like the hard-driving “On My Own” and I’d probably like this album a lot more but the lumbering crunch they stick to most of the time hurts the momentum. Kudos, though, for opening track “Panic,” the collage of audio clips that documents the past half-decade of madness, starting with the 9/11 attacks. (

BLOODY PHOENIX-War, Hate, & Misery (625/multi-label)
Relentless grindcore/thrash and played with precision and brutality. These guys stick to the thrashier side, with more judicious usage of double-speed and blastbeat drumming. The lethal guitar and bass pummel and high/low vocal attack create a punishing effect along the lines of early Napalm Death and ENT. A little goes a long way with this style but I’ll bet they rage live. Still, to be honest, it’s not something I’d listen to at home all that much. (


BORN/DEAD-The Final Collapse (Prank, LP)
Kudos up front for the superb packaging, with a gatefold sleeve and booklet that offer a visual depiction of the grim subject matter this Bay Area band lyrically explore. Born/Dead continue to connect with their crust meets US hardcore sound. It’s not just noise—there’s a haunting hint of melody to start and end “Years Of Death”and it frames the blistering rampage of “Nuance.” Another powerful effort. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

BRING ME THE HORIZON-This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For (Earache, CD)
Iron forged technical metal with lots of double-bass madness, molten riffage and vocalized agony. One of the songs is called “Rawwwrr!” and I suppose that puts their approach into the written form. There’s no doubting the instrumental skill but this kind of bludgeoning heaviness quickly becomes tedious, even with only four songs clocking in at under 20 minutes. (43 West 38th St., 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10018,

DISKELMÄ/DISTRESS-Split (Kämäset Levyt, 7” EP)
With the spiked ‘n studded skeletal imagery and, uh, the names of the bands, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell where these two bands are coming from. Diskelmä are from Finland and Distress from Russia. Diskelmä start with a metallish flair before getting down to the crusty business at hand. Distress have an equally raw attack, maybe not quite as low-tuned. You know what to expect and both of these bands hit hard. (Nakari, Sorinkatu 6 B, 33100 Tampere, FINLAND,

INSTANT ASSHOLE-D.U.I. or Die (Tankcrimes, 7” EP)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving would HATE this band and I’m really hoping the title track is meant in sarcastic fashion. John the Baker’s vocals drip with sarcasm, anyway. A devil-may-care spirit lives and breathes through this band’s flailing punk songs and John’s rants. I agree completely with the sentiments for “Driven To Drink”—life is definitely full of assholes who drive you to that point. Or at least make me want to blast this kind of punk rock and make it all go away. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609,

JUGGLING JUGULARS-When I See/Addicted (Zerga/Kämäset Levyt, 7”)
Only two songs here—wow, that’s not something I see all that often with the 7”s I review. The full-on punk of “Addicted” is better of the two. “When I See” opts for a more tuneful/emotional approach. A dominant bass-line carries the load here. Arja’s higher-pitched vocals sometimes go over the top but don’t overwhelm things. (Nakari, Sorinkatu 6 B, 33100 Tampere, FINLAND,

ORDER OF THE WHITE ROSE-Ghosts Of The Sidewalk/Seeds Of Destruction (Unitree/Hawaiian Express, 7”)
The latest salvo from this Hawaiian band isn’t as strong as the material on their full-length but not chaff, either. A pair of melodic punk songs with a lyrical sensitivity although not quite packing the same musical “oomph,” for want of a better term. Fitting in with the theme of the A-side, proceeds are going to support a Hawaiian food bank. (PO Box 880908, Pukalani, HI 96788,

RAIN-La Vache Qui Rit (Peterbilt/Dischord, CD)

Another Peterbilt reissue on CD (following Happy Go Licky and Deadline). It’s interesting to note that all the reissues so far were posthumous releases to begin with. This is textbook late 80s DC emo-style music. Before you go running away, I mean that in a positive sense and maybe I shouldn’t even use that term—but I just did. If you’ve heard bands such as Soulside (guitarist Scott McCloud, who joined the band later on, was in that band) or Ignition then you’ll have a pretty good idea of where they’re coming from. Melodic rock that drives home the hooks and the vocals from Jon Kirschten express passion without going overboard. Scott’s vocal on “Snakeout,” on the other hand, echo Guy from his Rites of Spring days. Very much of its time and holding up well. This is the type of stinging sound that wraps itself around my head. (3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007,

RED HANDED-Wounds Remain (Rivalry, CD)
A smokin’ blend of older hardcore, punk and occasional heaviness. If there’s an overall mood to this album, it’s being fucking pissed off—and I wrote that before seeing the press sheet, which says exactly that. Great minds think alike? The aggro really comes out full-bore for “RH Army” and “Losing Sleep.” Two covers paying tribute to the roots—Black Flag’s “Room 13” (you know—“keep me alive!”) and Void’s “My Rules” (sorry, but bands need to cover other Void songs although it’s a decent version). Red Handed don’t allow themselves to get bogged down in sluggish arrangements. Rippin’ it up. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,

SGT. SLAUGHTER-They Call Me Guitar Dickmouth (Social Napalm, 7” EP)
Finally some vinyl for this underrated hardcore band from the northern ‘burbs. It could also be the last for awhile, if ever, since their vocalist Aaron is moving to the west coast. “Home On The Strange” has the classic tense buildup, leading to a thrashy attack and that continues through the four songs here. Some hot licks from the dual-axe lineup and the slight bit of distortion on Aaron’s vocals works well. Sgt. Slaughter have a classic old-school inspiration, without sounding specifically like any one band. (PO Box 4073, S. Chelmsford, MA 01824-0773,

VARIOUS-Perhosten Kerääiä (Roku, LP)
Four Finnish bands and, if there’s such a thing as a classic Finnish HC sound, these bands don’t really follow that blueprint. Laybacks, the only band who sing in English, play a driving street punk sound with an adequate amount of burn. Polttoitsumurna also have elements of up-da-punx fodder, a harder edged guitar sound and it’s merged with a few Scandivanian touches, plus there are male/female vocal tradeoffs. Omaisuusvahinko mix things up, as well. Thrash and catchier punk, hindered by sloppy drumming and out of sync vocals at times. The right idea, not always the best execution. Finally, Dissect also have the right idea, that being raw Scandi-thrash/crust but it’s hindered by god-awful vocals (once again male/female). With a better vocalist or pair of vocalists it could be killer. Their last song, “Perseenuolija,” takes a rougher punk approach and has an endearing raggedness. Nothing particularly essential here. This record is actually a bonus that comes with Perhosten Kerääiä ‘zine and that includes lyrics and info on the bands, interviews with Aurinkokerho and Streittari plus reviews of “kalssikot” (as they put it) records. All of it in Finnish, by the way. (

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #51


(something a little different this time... the reviews will be back in the next blog)

On November 15, 1997, the legendary Boston punk rock club The Rathskeller aka The Rat closed its doors forever. The flyer at the top of the page is from the last all-ages show at the club. Gang Green were the last-ever band to play the club later that evening. I can’t recall if I knew that was the final show, at the time and, even if I did, it was only a short time before the show.

I didn’t even think about this anniversary until James from the Pinkerton Thugs pointed it out on the Lemmingtrail message board. As the title of this blog says, where does the time go? The Rat had actually been around as a nightclub since the 60s, was known as TJ’s for a time and reverted back to the Rat name in 1974, according to the New England Music Newsletter. There’s a two part story with reminiscences about the club that you can see here: (Part 1) and (Part 2).

It was located in Kenmore Square, around the corner from Fenway Park for you non-MassHoles/New Englanders. Kenmore was seedy and scary at that time and gradually became gentrified and sanitized, which I’ll get to. It had “charactah,” as we say in Massachusetts English. There’s an interview with the club’s owner Jim Harold that appeared on the Boston Groupie News site and you can read it here:

The Rat became ground zero for Boston’s burgeoning underground rock scene. There was a double disc “Live At The Rat” album on Rat Records (of course). The label later released two singles by the Nervous Eaters. The second, “Just Head/Get Stuffed,” in addition to being one of the best early Boston punk singles, is hopelessly rare, especially with the picture sleeve and with the record not pressed off center. In any case, if you listen to that LP, there was quite a bit of more bar-type rock. Still, DMZ had a solid driving garage rock sound. Vocalist Jeff Conolly, aka Monoman, has kept the flag flying for three decades, most of it with the Lyres. The snotty Real Kids also made a strong impression as John Felice exuded a defiant yet vulnerable Jaggerly performance on their sole song, the stomping “Who Needs You?”

I heard about this place and when I started at Boston University, in the fall of ’78, I knew I had to go into Boston’s most intense underground dwelling… that subterranean cavern of lurid vice and gla-mour known as the Rat…” That was punk DJ Oedipus’s introduction on that album. Oedi, born Eddie Hyson, was the first punk DJ in Boston, on the MIT station WTBS, which changed its call letters to WMBR when Ted Turner bought them for his Turner Broadcasting System. Oedipus’s show, The Demimonde, was must-listening every Saturday afternoon. He even had cool music for his concert reports—the Real Kids doing a cover of Link Wray’s “Rawhide.”

I first entered the club in the fall of ’78 with a high school friend visiting for the weekend. The drinking age was 18 and so it was possible to go to clubs. When the commonwealth raised the drinking age to 20, I was 19 and couldn’t get into clubs for another year. It sucked—they didn’t “grandfather” people in and I missed god knows how many great shows that year. At this Rat show, we saw a wretched Springsteen-esque band, the Stompers. I refuse to call that my first punk show. The band later gained some popularity, signed to a major label and you can probably find their records in a 99 cent bin somewhere.

Nope, the first real show was the Plasmatics and the Molls. I’ve told this story a ton of times, as well, and just did a piece on it for My First Time (AK Press, where so-called luminaries (hah!) write about their first punk rock experience. To give the Reader’s Digest version, that was my first punk show. The Molls had an electric bassoon player but still connected with a cool artsy-punk sound and their 7”, “White Stains,” is a KBD classic. As for the Plasmatics, it was quite the baptism into the live punk rock experience. Wendy O was one hell of a performer, in her bloodstained t-shirt and sheer nylon panties, grinding around, just out of reach of groping hands. This was before they had broken nationally, just around the time when their “Butcher Baby” EP was released. Of course, the climax was the sacrifice of the guitar via chainsaw for “Butcher Baby.” Not bad for the REAL first show I saw. They were one raw, fast, frenetic band. That was punk fucking rock, exactly what I wanted to see. I had to go solo since I had no friends and almost all the people on my dorm floor hated punk, anyway. Shit, one of the disco loving assholes down the hall, a big jockish goon, threatened to break my records.

So, for the next 18 years, I went to shows at the Rat. Night shows, all-ages shows later on, all kinds of shows and a wide variety of bands, everything from punk to hardcore to metal to post-punk to pop. While it had a rep as a punk club, the Rat booked lots of different bands over the years. Off the top of my head, here are some of the bands I saw: Mission of Burma, Effigies, Husker Du, Wipers, REM, Minutemen, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Youth of Today, Naked Raygun, Uniform Choice, Accüsed, Helmet, Hard-Ons, Warzone, Varukers, Genral Foodz, GG Allin, Dickies, Angry Samoans, Dwarves, Soulside, Marginal Man, Bl'ast, Flesh Eaters, Slapshot, Goo Goo Dolls (in their punk days before they turned into top 40 swill), DOA, DYS, Dag Nasty, Descendents, Unnatural Axe, 7 Seconds, Citizen Fish, Jawbreaker, Aus-Rotten, Violent Society, Poison Fucking Idea, Sheer Fucking Terror, Freeze, Scratch Acid, Business, Anti-Flag, Queers, Doggy Style, Megadeth (just before "Peace Sells" came out)…

I mean, I could go on for days and that’s without digging into my “archives.” I also have a list of bands I WISH I’d seen there, had the chance to and didn’t: Zero Boys, in late ’80 or early ’81, around the time their 7” EP came out; DMZ, who I heard on the “Live At The Rat” album but never saw; Dead Boys, who I never saw, either; Metallica, opening for Raven! I was too cheap to cough up $7.50. FUCK!

And then there was the Police. They played a few nights there in the fall of ’78. This is another story I’ve told many times so if you’ve seen it before, my apologies. I’d heard the Police’s debut single “Fall Out” on a college station when I was just starting to listen to punk on the radio, sometime in late ’77 and thought it was a pretty good song but never did get the record. So I stopped by the room of one of my dorm-mates, Mark, and saw a 45 record on his desk. He told me they were giving them out at Strawberries, a record store in Kenmore near the Rat. It was “Roxanne” by Police, as they were listed on the record. I told him I’d heard of the band, that they were punk and he seemed repulsed by that fact and told me I could have the record. I thought it was OK—kind of surprised to hear the reggae in the verses but the chorus had a pretty punk rock feel to it, I thought at the time. That was the week they played four nights at the club. By the time they came back the following April, to play the larger Paradise, tickets sold out in advance. And I never did get to see them play at all. I suppose I could have gone to see them play at Fenway Park last summer (talk about coming full circle—sort of) but I didn’t have a few hundred bucks to do that. If they had guaranteed they’d only play songs off their first two albums, I might have taken the plunge. Much like I would have gone to see the Saints, recently, if Chris Bailey promised to only play songs from “I’m Stranded” and “Eternally Yours” and Ed Kuepper was playing guitar with them. Alas, it wasn’t to be and I heard I didn’t miss that much, anyway.

By the 90s, the place seemed really run down but that’s when I started going to a lot of all-ages shows again, as my interest in punk had been regenerated. There were matinees there almost every weekend and, once again, covering different punk sub-genres although most of the bands fit into the spiky/mohawk/up-da-punx and street punk bands. The first time I saw Dropkick Murphys, with the original lineup, they opened for the Unseen. Mark from that band booked quite a few of those shows and I’ll bet I saw them 15-20 times during the final few years of the club’s existence.

The club did have a rep for nasty bouncers. When they started doing some all-ages show in 1982, there was a show with Mission of Burma and the Proletariat. I reviewed it in the second issue of my zine and said the the club “maintained its reputation for having the most mentally deranged and fucked-up bouncers in any music establishment in Boston.” I imagine that could have also applied to the Channel, a much bigger place with alleged mob ties. But some people started “slamming,” as I called it in the review and the bouncers stopped the kids and said it wasn’t allowed. Things got ugly late in the show and there was a bit of a brawl and Clint from Mission Of Burma said “we don’t think kids should pay four bucks to get beaten up.” I also alluded to the fact that the club had been shut down for three weeks prior to that due to bouncer incidents. Speaking of Burma, they were a lot better then than when I saw them recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art, where I had to shell out $25 x 2 to take my lovely wife. She deserves it, especially after not complaining about all the punk shows I go to. Anyway, by the time the next all-ages show happened at the Rat, with the Effigies, they did allow dancing and removed all the tables and chairs. Unfortunately, according to the same issue of my zine, when the Wipers played there after that, the bouncers once again went into attack mode. And so it went…

In spite of those rough situations at times, I never really had any problems, personally, except for the time I saw Youth Of Today around ’89 or so (it may have even been Shelter. I just know it was one of Ray Cappo’s bands) and someone broke into my car on the street behind the club and boosted around 50 tapes, including many irreplaceable demos and mix tapes. I made jokes about how, since I’d criticized the spiritual content of Ray’s bands, maybe it was some sort of karma but I think I’ll just leave that alone.

I also have to mention Mitch Cerullo, the manager and doorman at the club for years, with his silver hair and impeccable three piece suits. He had also had a laryngectomy, where they removed his voice box and he had to use a device to talk. Sadly, he passed away in ’95. He was only in his early 60s. He was an imposing figure and a friend once told me that Mitch packed heat when he was working there. I can still visualize him standing by the stairway that led down to the club. It’s sad to think that stairway is gone and Mitch is gone, as well. There were even t-shirts made in his honor. T. Max from The Noise zine wrote about it on the New England Newsletter site: “I was afraid he wouldn't like me making money off his image, so I promised to make only 24 shirts. The first 24 sold as fast as I could collect the money people were shoving at me. Mitch saw this, put his arm around me, and walked me outside. He held his small microphone up to the hole in his neck and his mechanical voice spoke the words, “I respect your business endeavors. Make more T-shirts.””

MITCH AND FRIENDS (photo by Blowfish, used without permission, don't kill me)

More memories? Some of the interviews I did in that place. GBH, upstairs from the bar, where we were eating some tasty BBQ and Jock, their guitarist, put some greens on my plate, saying “’ere—it’ll put ‘air on yer chest.” Out behind the club, I interviewed the guys from Sheer Terror in a car and it was one of the most non-PC and hilarious ones I’ve ever done. Even when they said things 180 degrees opposed from my beliefs, I was in stitches. Their inimitable vocalist Paul Bearer referred to Al Sharpton as a “fat Barry White lookalike” and also said that Spike Lee looked like a frog. I mean, you really had to be there but I can still hear Paul pontificating with that New York accent of his. I interviewed David Sims and Brett Bradford from Scratch Acid and a real rat actually scurried near us, while we were in the back parking lot. In the same lot, I hung out with Jerry A from Poison Idea, who finally hit Boston in 1990. He put away a fifth of Jack Daniels and it had no noticeable effect. He’d promised me a shirt when they came to town but they ran out and so he reached into his suitcase and gave me one of his own shirts. It’s never even fit me right but it will never leave my possession. It means more than any standard band shirt. I’m sure other people have much crazier stories about the Rat than I do. I’ve never been a partier and the Rat wasn’t a place I’d go just to drink. The bands were the attraction for me.

In all honesty, this place was a pit. I mean, it was your classic seedy dive club but its history is undeniable. I was just reading an interview with the club’s owner Jim Harold and he talked about the club getting flooded. I remember that happening during a Tad show there around 1990--the toilets exploded! They made everyone go upstairs, pumped out some and once things seemed to be OK, we were allowed to go back downstairs. I don’t even want to know what I stepped in that night. They had a flood another time and someone came up with the brilliant idea to put kitty litter on the floor. You can imagine what happened when people started dancing during a Kiss It Goodbye show there. A fucking dust storm. I can’t remember if I had some kind of bandana in my bag or not but I tried to cover my mouth and nose to keep the dust out. Which, of course, didn’t happen and I was blowing black snot the next few days. Ugh. I mean, I’ve been to some basement shows with dirt floors where they’ve had the flying dust problem but this was just as bad.

As a side note, kitty litter should only be used for something that cats poop into. I found that out the hard way last winter when we had a snowstorm, our driveway was iced up and I went to the store to buy some sand. They were out so I bought five bags of kitty litter and put it down on the driveway and, of course, it turned into this disgusting gooey substance when it got wet. And it stuck to the bottom of our shoes and boots and we had to be careful not to track it into the house, over the new carpeting, which we had to put in when the downstairs of our house got flooded. I don’t think I want to talk about it anymore.


So the Rat closed and the decimation of Kenmore Square was already underway. A record store, Planet, got burnt out of its space a few doors down before the Rat’s demise. Other cool restaurants and shops gave way to chains. Eventually, the entire block where the Rat existed was bulldozed for the disgusting, gaudy Hotel Commonwealth, catering to fuckers who have over $300 a night to piss away, while visiting their obnoxious college student spawn infecting the area. Besides the Rat and Planet, that block also had the Pizza Pad, Nemo’s, an army/navy store and Charlie’s Cafeteria, which later become an iHop that pretty much blew. There were other clubs, including Storyville, which operated for a short time in the 80s. In that same building was the legendary Radiobeat studio where many great bands recorded, including SSD, DYS, The Proletariat and a lot more. That building is now an Uno’s.

There was the unofficial mayor of Kenmore Square, Mr. Butch, about whom I could write an entire column. He was a dreadlocked, African-American gentleman, who was a long-time Kenmore fixture. Butch was a street person, chose to live his life that way but also had people who looked after him. He played guitar through a small amp and I even saw him play a show with his band, the Holy Men, when they opened for Flipper at the Channel club. He was there in 1978 when I started college. After Kenmore got gentrified, Mr. Butch (whose real name was Harold Madison, Jr.) moved on to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood, where he resided until he was killed earlier this year in a scooter accident. Here’s another link if you want to know more about the legend of Mr. Butch:

It’s all gone now. Safer, I suppose. More “family friendly,” as the whole Kenmore/Fenway area is becoming. Lots of high-rises with expensive condos going up, skyrocketing ticket prices to the baseball game, when you can get them or don’t mind taking out a second mortgage to buy them from a scalper—excuse me, ticket agency. Chain restaurants like Uno’s, Bertucci’s and McDonald’s. Just like anywhere else. They’ve even cleaned up the subway station, building a fancy new entrance way. Ah well, at least the huge Citgo sign, corporate emblem or not, remains perched atop 636 Beacon Street, as it has since the mid-60s, and acts as a beacon to draw you to Kenmore. Trouble is there ain’t that much to draw me there anymore. And that’s a pity…

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #50



“EEEEEEEEEEEEYOWWW”—Roger Miret, Agnostic Front
“CHAAAA-AAAA-ANGE”—Ray Cappo, Youth Of Today
“OOOOF”—Tom G. Warrior, Celtic Frost
“ROWWWWWWWWWWF!”—Steve Clark, 86 Mentality
The guttural emanation, the growl or yell or exaggeration of words, if you will, has long been a part of hardcore punk. Well, in Mr. Warrior’s case, I’m talking about metal but work with me here. I saw 86 Mentality play recently and, during the week leading up to the show, there was a lot of excitement. A couple of message boards were humming about it and every so often the posts would attempt to spell out those yells or exhortations that Steve vocalizes. He has quite the gruff voice and throws in his share of “rrrrowwwws,” “ooooofs,” “ohhhhs,” “ruffffs” and the like. Actually, the first sound out of his mouth on their first 7” is a sturdy “RRROWWW.” He’ll also throw in the occasional “OI!,” which makes sense since that’s a part of their sound. Incidentally, their recent set at the Ratscellar was off the fucking chain. The hard pitting started the second the first chord was sounded. Need proof? Check out this short video clip:
This isn’t meant as any sort of disrespect—not advisable because Steve is a lot bigger than I am and could very easily kick my ass with one hand tied behind his back. If anything, I think it’s cool. Hardcore is meant to be a music that expresses anger, acting as a cathartic way to get it out of your system. And I admire how the guy is able to do it for the whole set. I sang along a bit and if I’d done it much more, I would have wrecked my voice and probably been muted for a day or two. Which, to some people, probably isn’t such an awful thing.
I forget what year it was but, in one of my English classes, the teacher brought up the word “onomatopoeia.” According to my handy dictionary—yes, I still have one of those—onomatopoeia is “the formation of a word, as cuckoo or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.” She basically said it’s a way of spelling out “what did the kitty say or what did the doggie say?” Meeeow, rrruff, etc. And I suppose I’m applying it to sounds that come out of these vocalists’ mouths.
It can also be extended to trying to describe how a musical instrument sounds. The legendary writer Lester Bangs put that to great use in a chapter in a book called Rock Revolution, originally published in 1973 by Creem magazine. His piece was called “The Heavy Metal Kids.” That chapter actually got me to check out bands like Blue Öyster Cult and the Stooges. The way he described some of the sounds that came out of the instruments was classic. With Cream, for instance, he tried to put into the written form what the instruments sounded like. Clapton’s “whrrrEEENGGA REENGA YANG YUNG!,” and went on to say that Jack Bruce’s bass “just kinda platypussed around in a brick-footed sort of way thump thonka THOONK THOONK THOONK A THOOMP THUM BOOMP BAH BKK BK BK and Ginger Baker just kept grinding his teeth and woodshipping in there BLLLDDRGGHGH..” Fuck it, I’m not going to spell out any more of that doggerel but you get the idea
But those are descriptions of instruments. What about vocals? Roger’s “eeeeyow” comes from “Victim In Pain,” specifically the start of “Hiding Inside” and the middle of “Your Mistake.” It sounds kind of like someone being given a hotfoot in one of those old Warner Bros or Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Another Warner Bros reference, and not really a case of onomatopoeia, is on Fucked Up’s “Two Snakes.” In the chorus, Damian sings “Twoooooooooooo snakes!” and Oliver of Radio Schizo radio pointed out that he sounds like Yosemite Sam when he does that. When I hear that song (the best by far on “Hidden World”), I can’t escape the vision of Yosemite looking pissed with smoke coming out of his ears. Well, that’s the comment that Oliver posted on my MySpace page—Yosemite Sam with a “Two Snakes” caption.
Ray Cappo had some classic growls and yells during the early days of Youth Of Today. Some wiseass made reference to his Tony The Tiger vocals (THEY’RE GRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!) but the late Thurl Ravenscroft had a uniqueness that few could approach. He also sang the songs on “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” With all due respect, I think Cappo would have been out of his league there. He shouldn’t feel badly about it. That’s a pretty high bar. On YOT’s first album “Break Down The Walls,” the first line out of Ray’s mouth is the aforementioned “MAKE A CHAAAA-AAAA-ANGE” and many of the lines end with some of those growls. Ray’s in overdrive throughout—voicing all the pure rage he can muster. For “Thinking Straight,” when he shouts the title, it sounds more like STRAYAYAY-OW. And then there’s a hearty “GOOOOO” and “OWWWWWW” to introduce the mosh part. It definitely adds to the toughness, the hardness of the music.
John Joseph from the Cro-Mags maybe didn’t exaggerate it quite as much as Ray but he had his moments of vocal vitriol. How about “Malfunction,” on “The Age of Quarrel”? “I just can’t get through you to YOUUUUUUUUUUUWOW.” The “Seeeeee-OWWWWWW” for “It’s The Limit”? As a side-note, there are few opening tracks with as brutal an intro as “We Gotta Know.”
Finally (for now), we come to Tom G. Warrior, the vocalist for Swiss avant-garde thrash metal legends Celtic Frost. He had a way with an “OOF,” like someone was punching him in the gut. Those first two albums, “Morbid Tales” and “To Mega Theion,” are stone classics and Mr. Warrior is in full force. The ultimate Tom G. Oof performance is on the party mix of “Return To The Eve,” from the “Tragic Serenades” EP where he throws in a lot of oofs and even a Fat Albert-esque “Today-hey-hey-hey.” He eventually went for a whinier vocal style, especially for “Cold Lake,” which is to Celtic Frost what “Grave New World” was to Discharge. Both Tom and Cal abandoned their formerly gruff styles. Where Tom was whiny, Cal (or Kelvin, as he was credited on this recording) sang as though his balls were stuck in vise. And talk about pretentious—a 15:08 atrocity called “The Downward Spiral.”
Tom’s whininess actually started on “Into The Pandemonium,” which was widely uneven, despite a killer leadoff cover of Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” “Cold Lake,” which I don’t even own a copy of anymore, was the nadir. They affected a glammy look, Tom G. Warrior was now Thomas Gabriel and they were mercilessly heckled when they played Boston. Tom even tried a few half-hearted “OOOFS,” but couldn’t pull it off. Someone actually brought a protest sign that said “Cold Lake or Cold Fake? You decide.” The dude kept waving it in Tom’s face until he had a roadie confiscate it. He tried to find a middle ground with his vocal style and there was an attempt at a heavier sound once again for “Vanity/Nemesis,” but it was over. Not even reviving the Warrior surname could help. Their most recent comeback has a heavier sound and Tom (no more Warrior in the name this time, either) has a snarly vocal style but I think I’ll stick with the oldies.
Ultimately, though, this isn’t meant to be a career roundup of Discharge nor Celtic Frost, although the parallels in their career trajectory are somewhat interesting. This also isn’t meant to be any sort of long dissertation—even though it seems to be turning out that way. It’s just something that a hardcore punk obsessive with way too much time on his hands and attempting to come up with some kind of creative, tongue-in cheek angle spews out. But if any of my beloved readers have their own favorites, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
AFTER THE BOMBS-Spoils Of War (The Total End, 7” EP)
It took quite awhile for ATB to follow up their debut 7” and there are three scorching songs here, two originals and a Bathory cover (“War”). Much, much better production/mastering than on the muffled sounding debut and it brings out the strength of ATB’s crust-metal attack. The Sacrilege comparison is inevitable, with the echo-laden harsh female vocals but a punk influence is still a main part of the equation . Matt Strong, formerly of AOS and other bands, has recently joined on guitar and they’ve got a full-length coming soon. Another cool sleeve, as well, on heavy stock with the obligatory skulls ‘n missiles sketch and lettering on the back that looks as though it came from a Voivod record. (PO Box 80—Station C, Montreal QC H2L 4J7, CANADA,
ANS-The Process Of Stoking Out (Thrashbastard/multi-label)
There have been lineup shifts with this band over the years and vocalist Chris Wall is the constant. An interesting band—Black Flag via Bl’ast is an obvious inspiration here. Chris even has a bit of Clifford from the latter band’s cadence and the results are often explosive, such as the sonic torrents they unleash for “No Connection” and “Disable Me.” In something of an odd twist, three of the songs here are instrumental—well, “Walk Down My Way” has some spoken vocals in the background but the other pair, “Pull The Trigger” and “Transition Emission,” have almost a surfy flavor, especially in the guitar playing. And while these guys are obsessed with skating, they’re not so caught up in that to ignore what’s going on in the world—“Seeing 20/20,” for instance, presents a laundry list of global evils. Some intense sounds. (Warschauer Str. 57, 10243 Berlin, GERMANY,
BREAKFAST-Classic Six Packs (625, CD)

Reissues of material from Japan’s Breakfast. Let’s get the “Classic Six Packs” out of the way, first. That refers to the fact that there are 6 songs apiece for each release—the “Eat Rice” and second EPs, plus their demo, dating back to ’99-’01. This is one crazy-sounding band. Navigating from heavily distorted grind to jazzier Minutemen-on-a-caffeine-binge style compositions they play it very well. This is the kind of grindy-sounding stuff I like because it’s so off the rails and has an inherent sense of humor (“Breakfast? Eat Rice!”). The split is also known as the “El Burrito Project,” according to the 625 site and is a re-pressing of a CD from a few years ago. The booklet has a collection of photos taken by Taro, part of the El Burrito’s skate team, which is where the name of the project comes from, reflecting a love of burritos, according the essay by one of the members. Following me here? Breakfast’s five tracks (titled “El Burrito’s #1-5”) are sandwiched between two tracks by Struggle For Pride. Breakfast burrito sandwich? Sorry, I tend to use horrible puns. Breakfast still have the crazed approach but have amped it up a level—and all the songs are about burritos. The two songs by Struggle For Pride favor a free-noise disjointedness and more than a few tracks would be torture. (
CHOOSE YOUR POISON-Party Zone (Bacon Towne, 7” EP)
A fair to middling mixture of hammer-thrash and heaviness. It sounds as though one of the things Choose Your Poison are trying to do is an early Municipal Waste sound. I do concur with the sentiments on “Plastic Prison,” about always being deluged by credit card offers that have confiscatory interest rates and extra credit for this line on the anti-tough guy “KunckleDragger”: Save all your beef for philly cheese steak.” Ah, those Wisconsinites and their cheese-head stance! (PO Box 1063, Tallevast, FL 34270,
CIVIC PROGRESS-Petroleum Man (No Wire, 7” EP)
St. Louis band sharing members with Cardiac Arrest. Much like that band, this is a full-tilt hardcore barrage. Fuzzy bass and guitar merge into a formidable roar and the production is raw. I just hope the Secret Service doesn’t get on their case for “Kill The President,” which ain’t no allegorical exercise—“Let’s fucking kill him/ I really mean it/Let’s end his term like Mussolini.” The next song is “Crimethinc. Is A Joke” and quite a vicious slam: “Fight the system you depend on with stupid dance and funny clothes.” OK, that’s not very open-minded but, having seen a couple Crimethinc. Nimrods disrupt a Severed Head Of State show in Boston some years back, right on boys! Never mind a bike being a pipebomb? This record is the real fucking pipebomb. (
CRAWLERS-s/t (Blind Spot, 12”)
I still get a charge out of getting records from bands I was unfamiliar with and it turns out to be a pleasant surprise, an unexpected gem. That’s the case with this six song effort by a band from Portland, OR. Feisty punk with a hardcore bent and pissed off lyrics. Sure, the themes are common—anti-Republican, anti-church but it’s all in the delivery and they have it down. Songs are catchy, too, and there’s a non-cheesy cover of the Cure’s “Fire In Cairo.” (PO Box 40064, Portland, OR 97240,
GET RAD-Bastards United (Level Plane, 7” EP)
PROTESTANT/GET RAD-Split (Barbarian, 7” EP)

Get Rad have a sound that borders between dirty DIY hardcore punk and youth crew-ish elements. This is heartfelt, driving music and mainly delivered in a speedy vein. The title track for “Bastards United” is a change of pace, though. A mid-tempo, semi-melodic stomper with the costant of Kevin’s soul-scream. Maybe the “all in this together” theme of the lyrics is corny but I’ve always felt as though I’m something of a fuck-up and there’s an appealing “we accept you—one of us” sentiment. The songs on the split aren’t quite on that level but far from disposable either. Protestant’s songs have a soul-rending, melodic hardcore bent but aren’t as appealing. (Get Rad contact:
LETS GROW-Disease Of The Modern Times (Ha-Ko, CD/Thrashbastard, LP)
With each release, Lets Grow do, indeed, grow as a band. Ripsaw hardcore punk with rock ‘n roll lead guitar licks. Thrash in different speeds, sometimes opting for the double-speed blast and they shift easily into circle pit-inspiring breakdowns. Smack in the middle of this album, there’s a killer mid-tempo 9 Shocks-style song called “Man Is The Measure.” The cover shows a lonely soul, shaded in darkness, staring at a computer screen that says “no new messages” and it ties in with other themes of alienation expressed on this album. Definitely the best stuff I’ve heard from this Serbian band so far. (;

OSMANTIKOS-Keep Fighting Oppressive Conditions (Bacon Towne, 7” EP)
Decent crust/thrash/death-roar from this Malaysian band. Bass-drum pedal is an annoyance at times but, otherwise, they’ve got an effective, full-throttle sound reinforced with harsh dual vocals from both their bassist Fizam and drummer Yusth. (PO Box 1063, Tallevast, FL 34270,
REAGAN SS-Universal and Triumphant (Rebel Sound, LP)
Reagan SS finally have an LP out. Vocalist Mateo Diablo Blanco aka Matt Average of Engine ‘zine fame, fronts this brutal unit. Irritable vocals and a full-barreled attack. There are some double-speed forays but other songs are played at a tempered pace, such as the insistent bash of “Forced Entry,” with some sick bass runs from Andy Anderson (I was dazzled with his playing when they were here last summer) and the straightforward thrash of “Pests.” Most of these songs whip by with ruthlessly efficiency, with the exception of “Primo,” a song that drones for seven or so minutes. An anguished, torturously slow instrumental workout where the drums alternate between a blunt thud interrupted briefly by a more tribal rhythm. The guitar and bass have an effect of hanging like an ominous cloud in the air, feeding back into the ether. This is probably a track I’ll usually skip over, after having heard it a few times. I like the other method of operation these guys utilize. , PO Box 281, Dalton, MA 01227,
SOUL CONTROL-Involution (Rivalry, CD)
Hardcore with groove from a local band I hadn’t heard before. There’s quite a bit of Bad Brains “I Against I” (at least in the riffing and rhythm--no reggae, just rock), early 90s fodder like Quicksand and a whiff of metal. “On Survival” and “Involution” actually got this record off to a good start—frayed guitar lines, a solid Helmet-ish vibe but it’s not sustained. “Dive” and “Focus” both add a dose of speed although they put chug in the chorus. It’s better than I expected but it still comes from the heavier end of the hardcore spectrum, without the punk influence. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,
TERROR-Rhythm Amongst The Chaos (Reaper, CD)
Iron-pumping metal-core. In fact, maybe it’s boxing core, since former fighter Vinny Pazienza, excuse me, Paz has a shout-out at the beginning of their cover of Breakdown’s “Kickback.” Heavy, crushing riffage and there’s a lot of brawn, bludgeon and bluster. And even though there are only five songs here, it quickly becomes tedious. I haven’t paid much attention to Terror since their first album “Lowest Of The Low” and, while it doesn’t really float my boat anymore, it still blows this EP away. (PO Box 2935, Liverpool, NY 13089,
THE UNSEEN-Internal Salvation (Hellcat, CD)
The Unseen are still kicking around. Actually, I know they’re a pretty popular band, Warped tour stars ‘n all that. They remain a sturdy punk rock band, Mark Civitarese barking out the words with a ranty passion and the socially/politically-conscious have become increasingly articulate over the years. Still, it doesn’t require any sort of deep analysis—this is punk rock, after all. Well produced, tuneful, hearty singalongs. If it sounds as though I’m damning with faint praise a bit, that’s not completely true. I know that heart and passion went into it but I miss the days when they had a slightly rougher, less streamlined approach. (
VARIOUS-Retro Is Poison (Punks Before Profits, LP)
Four way split—two American bands (Ciril, I Object), one from the UK (Active Minds) and one from Spain (Kärnvapen Attack). While each band has an aggressive nature, they’re also distinct from one another. Ciril have always opted for a nightmarish, chilling sound and have also moved away from their Peni-derivative roots over the years. Gloomy punk along with slashing hardcore, especially “War/Drobe Of White” and Darrin’s vocals go from a spooked quaver to something more beastly. Kärnvapen Attack follow that with raging hardcore that doesn’t exclusively bear a sonic resemblance to Mob 47, the band that spawned their name, but that band have obviously inspired them. Crazed-sounding, especially in the vocal department. I Object have never exactly been a soft rock band but they sound really fucking pissed here or, more accurately, Barb’s vocals sound that way. Hoarse and visceral and the music, as always, packs a fast-paced punch. The lyrics express a fierce loyalty to DIY punk and also criticize unrealistic/unhealthy body images that are foisted on girls and women and also takes on “elitist activism,” as they call it. Finally UK vets Active Minds wrap things up with some rabid, full-on material, particularly their lead-off track “Economic Collapse Is On Its Way (Hooray!).” Their last song, “Life Is A Political Action,” opts for a heavier dirge effect. The booklet features an essay by Ryan from PBF/I Object where he writes about how he’d be dead without hardcore punk and that too many bands try to live in the past instead of looking towards the future. Considering that his (now former) band took its name from a DC Youth Brigade song and Kärnvapen Attack from Mob 47, it’s still obvious there are nods to the past. I suppose, though, that none of these bands sound like carbon copies of other bands and maintaining a commitment to underground hardcore is something I still admire. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501,